“How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard
It would be the day my treasured friend for thirty-six years, my entire married life, would spend dying. It was not possible to physically get to her. I am so thankful for telephones. As her daughter held it to her ear, though she could barely speak, she eked out “I love you.” I spilled out a stream of wondrous ways her love and joy in the telling of God’s story, in the context of her living brave and beautiful, had so importantly impacted my life.
I told her I love the way she smiles with her eyes, and the certain way she tilts her head when she talks and how she always had fresh flowers on the kitchen table and fruit pies cooling on the counter. “I love you, Regina.” We feel very sad yet very full of hope and we run… hand in hand, over the phone, to the sticking place. The sticking place of courage. Of a love that will not fail, even on your dying day. Of a love that is stronger than death.
The question has been around for a long time. When your one precious life has been spent, how is it that you will have spent the days gifted to you? It has been suggested we write out our own obituary as an endeavor that might motivate and inspire us to do and be what we most want to do and be. There are all sorts of motivational maneuvers to manipulate us into altruistic action but what is it, really, that stirs the deepest parts of our heart and soul to live the way we live? We must not lose perspective in the seemingly day-after-day existence that it is a high and holy thing to live a life.
There is nothing like a death to accentuate a life.
Parts of my friend’s remarkable life story were told at her funeral.
But she had been living the telling all of her life.
We each have one.
A word painting.
A sketch. A depiction. A particular account. A narrative. A story.
We each are a teller of tales. Spinner of yarns. A biographer. A word painter. Even when we struggle to find words or words seem unutterable, we do not want our life to end up a theatrical performance with a formal script, wearing a mask, play-acting for an audience. We want meaningful relationships that matter.
Words might leak out in limping meters and halting rhyme but poetic inspiration and creative imagination is all around you as well as in you. What do you most want to do and be? What is the relational story that we will spend our days, our lives, our death, telling?
One of the definitions of the word ‘last’ is ‘staying power.’ To follow a track in both thought and action. An expression of a load. A weight. A burden carried. A continuance. A duration. Belonging to the end of life. The only remaining, conclusive, definitive thing….. What is the only remaining, conclusive, definitive thing that really stirs the deepest part of your heart and soul? What is your ‘last?” What is the momentous, weighty load you carry, like a burden, which is really a form of gift?
Each of us will breathe our last breath. What are a dying person’s words like?
We can call up words from our life that give color, texture, and expressions of rich layers of meaning that matter eternally in the relational context of a larger story than just our own.